LAWRENCE — On a recent Friday, Jacob Lozada and Randy Ovalles were working on robots with Guilmette School paraprofessional Liz Morin. In another room, Maricruz Ortiz was practicing yoga while Veronica Levesque and Nicole Ortega were making snacks in the kitchen.
The hub of activities did not take place at the school, but at the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. The school and the club have established a partnership to offer enrichment programs as schools add between 200 to 300 hours to the academic year. The increased hours are part of the turnaround plan established by Receiver/superintendent Jeff Riley.
“We believe we need extended learning time at the elementary and middle school levels to close the achievement and opportunity gaps,” Riley said. “So we’re providing children with high quality academic and enrichment opportunities to ensure they’re ready for the transition to high school.”
Before this year, city students went to school for about 1,130 hours. During the 2013-2014 academic years all students in first to eighth grade attend an additional 200-300 hours in 21 schools, said Chris Markuns spokesperson for Lawrence Public School.
Extended learning time is a key component of the Turnaround Plan, Markuns said. Schools established in 2012-13 including UP, Phoenix, Spark Academy, Community Day Arlington built it into their school day.
He said added enrichment like arts and physical fitness are part of every school’s extended learning time plan and one of the “7 Essential Elements” of the Extended Learning Time.
“We’ve always valued arts and we felt this enrichment program would provide kids a real motivator to feel positive about school and do well in school because it’s not your traditional academic day,” Guilmette elementary principal Lori Butterfield said.
Guilmette is one of four Lawrence elementary schools participating in TIME Collaborative and adding 300 hours to their school year. The others are Parthum, South Lawrence East and Arlington. Teachers receive professional development from the National Center on Time and Learning to help them achieve the additional hours.